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Denali Rising

On my first trip to Alaska in April 2000, I had to take a day to see just how far north I could drive. Luckily, the day was clear and Denali, North American's tallest mountain, suddenly came into view. I remember rounding a corner on the crest of a hill and watching the sky line inch slowly upwards and upwards. I kept thinking, "wow... wow!.. Wow! .. WOW! ..." as McKinley crept higher and higher as I rounded the corner. As gasps become audible, the mountain still rose. It fulfilled my every expectation. 

As I drove north, I passed by the entrance to Denali National Park. Since it was April, it had not yet opened. Undeterred, I went through some of the "Road Closed" signs with my intrepid (almost) 4x4 Ford Focus. Skidding through ice and snow mounds like a complete idiot, miles from any help in subfreezing temperatures, I eventually reach a spot where the road was gated off completely. I bundled myself up, and sat outside the car for a few hours soaking in the silence and stillness that emanates from a snow covered Alaskan landscape. 

Denali National Park
From Denali, I headed farther and farther north. It became my goal to see just how far I could get and still get back down to Anchorage in time to catch my flight out the next evening (and to stop by my friend Steve's house).

The panoramic picture below is a spot along the way when sunset hit. I jumped out of the car and took narcissistic shots of me holding Tig in various positions.

Me and Tig, Me and Tig, Me and Tig, Me and Tig, ....
After a stop for the night in Healy and an amazing show of Northern Lights, I continue north the next day to Neenana. I picked up a fellow who was heading to Fairbanks. When he asked me where I was going, it was wonderfully uplifting to reply simply "How far do you want to go?". He was a transplated Mexican who was hoping to work at Denali in the kitchens. We talked about everything from old time Alaskans, to prejudices, to Windows NT Server.

When I finally decided to turn around at Neenana, I had to jump out of the car and proclaim out loud "This is the farthest North I have ever been!". I stood there proudly, undefeated by the earth's extremes like Farley Mowat. Once the moment began to thin out, I slyly took a small step northward, and - to my tremendous glees - re-experience the whole feeling all over again, complete with identical exclamations. The natives passed by me with confusion and consternation. I repeated the whole reflexive one-upmanship for at least 15 minutes before I finally peeled myself away to head back south towards my home in Oregon

On the return trip, I gave a lift to an old miner-type guy aptly named "Foster". He was a dead giveaway of PBS' Red Green, complete with beard, smells, and bear pelt hat. As he sat in my car, he slowly peeled layer after layer of clothing off. Each layer was identified primarily by a unique smell, from sulpher to camp fire to downright obnoxious BO. As we talked, he kept falling asleep in mid sentence, talking about the Northern Lights from the previous night. I drove him to his "cabin", where he had some Mic. Light cooling in his "refridgerator" — a snow bank.

(c) Geoffrey Peters,, 2002. For more information regarding this web page, please contact
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